When you’re travelling, you will come across some memorable toilet situations. From holes in the ground to no toilets at all, peeing on the road can be a challenge.
If you are travelling around Asia, Africa and the Middle East you’re likely going to have to use a squat toilet. While some of these toilets are less than ideal places to pee, once you master a few key tips, you’ll be able to relieve yourself where ever you need.
If you have never used a squat toilet before, don’t worry. It’s easy to get used to!
Squat Toilets: What to expect
First up, what to expect. Squat toilets range from fly-infested, wet holes in the ground with little or no privacy, to white porcelain ones complete with flushes. Most are somewhere in between, but in my experience, ceramic ones are most common in Asia.
Instead of the toilet being a seat, squat toilets are usually level with the ground (but not always). Ceramic and steel ones feature footrests, making it easier to know where to plant your feet.
Sometimes you may be faced with a small hole in the ground. In places like China, public toilets don’t always have doors, so you may have to squat in public.
Top squat toilet tip? Toilet paper. Learn to carry it with you on long bus journeys. Those little pocket sized tissues are ideal, they are really cheap to buy and are a lot more discreet than walking around with a roll of loo paper. You can carry them in your pocket or bag.
Next up, hand sanitiser. This isn’t necessary, but it’s handy for long journeys when you may be greeted by a dirty toilet that makes you a little nervous about touching anything. If you are going to be eating and don’t know when you’ll be able to properly wash your hands again, then hand sanitiser provides peace of mind.
Now, armed with your supplies, you’re ready to get your squat on.
As you enter the toilet, keep an eye out for puddles, as some toilets get pretty wet, thanks to the hoses and buckets. (More on that below). If you have a bag, you can place it on a hook to keep it clean. If none is available, keep it on your back if you can, once it’s not so heavy you might be in danger of tipping backwards!
Now is the time to ensure that anything you have in your pockets is secure, otherwise, take them out and put them somewhere safe. No one wants to loose their phone to a toilet. If you have nowhere clean to put them, you could always take your trousers off, and hang them somewhere.
Also, be careful of your sunglasses. If they are perched on your head, don’t make any sudden movements or you could find yourself fishing them out of the toilet.
The Squat Stance
See those footrests? That’s where you need to plant your feet. You will stand facing the door, the same position you’d be in for a Western toilet. Plant your feet on either side of the bowl.
If you find yourself in a toilet without footrests, aim to put your feet on either side of the hole, standing slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
If you are wearing hippie pants, now is the time to scoop and grab. Reach for the low hanging middle of the trousers and lift it up towards you.
With your other hand, pull down your trousers, making sure to keep a hold of the middle part. You should be able to take the back of your pants in the same hand that’s gripping your middle part. This way, you have a hand free for balance.
It’s also a good idea to pull your trousers up from the ankles, towards your knees, so as to minimise any splashes that may occur. You can do this before you stand in position.
If you are wearing a dress or skirt, great. That makes it easier, just hoist it up around your hips.
If you are wearing shorts and they are tight and small, there isn’t much material to deal with, but depending on how tight they are, it can be a little hard to pull them down with your legs wide open. If you are a novice at the squat toilet, you can take your shorts off first, and either hang them somewhere dry, or hold them while you go.
When you’re pulling your shorts down, you want to get them down to just above your knees, to keep them out of the way, and to allow you to squat more deeply.
For the guys, the same thing goes for shorts. For jeans and trousers, I don’t know what you would do, but I guess you might have to take them off.
Squat down so you are close to the ground. The wider your legs are, the easier it is to get low and balance. You can rest your elbow on your knees to give more weight, or even hug your knees, which helps with balance.
It’s a good idea to lean forward slightly, for balance. Make sure you don’t lean forward too much, you don’t want the weight of your head to throw you off!
Pee away, making sure that you are still holding on to your pants and that you’re not spraying your leg! Aim for the centre of the hole, as best you can. Again, the lower your squat, the less likely you will get splashed.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to carry toilet paper.
The Clean Up
Squat toilets are commonly used without toilet paper, that’s just a Western thing. Squat toilet pros are able to clean themselves expertly with the spray of a hose or a splash from a bucket. If you try the same, you might make a mess on your first try.
Some squat toilets come with toilet paper, but usually you are required to put the toilet paper in a bin instead of flushing it down the toilet.
Some squat toilets come with a hose, almost like a bidet. You can aim it down there, letting the water flow from front to back. Let the water run into the bowl/hole and not anywhere else.
Most of the time, I’ve found, there will be a large bucket or trough filled with water, and a little bucket. Use the little bucket to scoop water from the big bucket and clean yourself. You can use a hand to splash the water on yourself. This is why eating with your left hand is seen as wrong in places like Asia, as that’s the hand used to clean yourself in the toilet. This is pretty annoying for a lefty like me!
My preferred method is toilet paper, as I don’t like the way you’re kind of still wet after using the hose. So many people swear by the non-Western method though. It’s both refreshing and natural. So too is squatting, by the way. Humans are made to go to the toilet that way, it’s good for your colon muscles.
Some squat toilets you come across will be disgusting, no matter where you are. Hand sanitiser really comes in handy.
If you’re lucky, the toilet will have a flush. If not, you have to clear the toilet yourself, using the hose or buckets of water.
That reminds me, other toilets you may run into on your travels are western looking, but with no flush, so you have to pour the water into the bowl to flush it.
Remember ladies, it’s all part of the great adventure that is travel!
Want more toilet-related travel tips?! Read: Delhi Belly, Traveller’s Diarrhea and how to deal with it
Please share your own squat toilet hacks below!